Judging a Book By It’s Cover or Why Going Bovine is a Brilliant Book and You Should Read It

Okay, fess up, you know you have this book on your shelf/TBR pile/kitchen counter. It has been waiting patiently for months for you to pick it up, dust it off, and read it.

And yet, somehow, you just can’t bring yourself to do it.

That walking brown cow with the red-hatted gnome tucked under his hoof just doesn’t stir those lustful book feelings that usually cause you to grab a novel and read it from cover to cover in one sitting. I understand. I tend to run from such covers as well – unless, the book has been previously acclaimed or forced upon me by required reading (Catcher in the Rye anyone?).

I was NOT enthralled by Going Bovine when it was first brought to my attention. Really? Teenage angst, mad cow disease, and a hypochondriac dwarf? Right. No way. But peer pressure (and not wanting any more overdue fines) prevailed and I finally read it. I am so happy that I did.

Libba Bray manages to capture all the joy, pain, adventures and tribulations of adolescence in a truly unique coming of age novel. Cameron, the protagonist, is a major slacker who finds out he has mad cow disease and is soon hospitalized because of it. Only 16, Cameron has never had the chance,  or taken the chance, to live his life, choosing the life of a indifferent slacker instead. I really didn’t like Cameron but it wasn’t too long before I found myself relating to him and his response to the situations he encounters making me pause to reflect on my own life as well. And as the book progresses Bray paints Cameron’s portrait so well that it reflects society and what it means to be human.

It’s difficult to do justice to this book and adequately describe the brilliance of Bray’s tale without ruining a major plotline of the novel, but the way she tells Cameron’s story is so fluid, so creative that I’m still ruminating on its messages. Bray not only manages to tell an amazing story, but she does a lot of it through layers and layers of allegorical and literary references. The comic tragedy that is Don Quixote is especially evidenced throughout.

Going Bovine is one novel that might not grip you from where it perches on its shelf, but it is one that will keep you in its grip long after you finish. So do yourself a favor, pick up the book – you won’t regret it.

  1. People really do judge books by their cover. Actually, I make my living getting librarians to judge books by their covers. So, I see firsthand how a crappy cover can doom a book to poor sales, but there are books that rise above their bad covers. I love some of the updates they’ve made to classic books like Wuthering Heights, which I put off reading for a long time because of the ugly cover on the paperback copy I had.

      • Samantha
      • April 15th, 2010

      Exactly! It’s hard to get excited about a book with a bland or unattractive cover. When do u get the gallies for your cover?Speaking if which…

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